Deep Calm

I’m sitting in the early dawn light in a cabin in Tabernash, Colorado drinking a cup of coffee and getting ready to go for a run in the mountains. 

I’ve just spent the last 18 hours with my Foundry Group partners at our quarterly retreat.  This is an approximately 24 hour affair that includes staying overnight somewhere in Colorado within driving distance of Boulder.  We’ve been doing this quarterly since we conceived of the idea for Foundry Group.

Our retreats aren’t “portfolio review sessions” nor are they complex travel boondoggles.  They are a simple, focused, 24 hours away together to discuss our business, reflect on how we are working together, and explore ways to improve things.

In Feld Technologies (my first company) I used to do this monthly with my partner Dave Jilk.  We lived in Boston at the time so we had our retreats within driving distance of Boston.  Same drill – leave in the morning of day 1; return in the afternoon of day 2.  Spend the time talking about our business and how we were working together.  Deal with any hard issues head on and try to figure out what we were going to do about them.  Dave and I managed to do this 10 out of 12 months a year (we’d occasionally miss) but when I think back on Feld Technologies, these were some of the most important and satisfying times we spent together.

While my life is frenetic, the world around us is chaotic, and as I like to say “something in my world somewhere is totally fucked up every single day”, I generally achieve a very deep calm.  On the surface I appear to be extremely busy, but at my essence I hear the birds chirping and think of fields of golden retriever puppies.

I woke up thinking about this and realizing how incredibly powerful it can be.  The lights on one’s existence go out suddenly and often unexpectedly.  There are endless (and daily) twists and turns in the path to happy, whatever you define happy as.  I’ve often said anxiety and fear are useless emotions in most contexts; a deep calm helps counteract them when they arise.

I encourage you to ponder this as you go about your day.  Time for a run.

  • That's a damn good post! Thanks!

  • Jessica Schallock

    Brad – I've been awake here since 3:45am dealing with a high blood sugar, and your post brought a little bit of calm and comfort to me. Thank you.

  • Hi – Fantastic Blog! This is great advice for entrepreneurs who are in a doldrum. I found that nature helps with calrity of thinking.

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  • Funny that as you post this, Jason Kottke would post something similar –

  • Funny that as you post this, Jason Kottke would post something similar –

  • Funny that as you post this, Jason Kottke would post something similar –

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  • Thanks man- couldn't have word-smithed it better

  • amen! great post. great outlook on life.

  • Thanks brad. Am now planning a similar retreat for OneButton founders… after your lighting has been installed.

  • Wilson Farrar

    Nice one Brad! There is a field next to my house that Scooter and I visit regularly. Hearing the birds chirp is something that I embrace as well. We live in a truly magnificent world and it's inspiring to remember to remember that! Merci!

  • Good post. Wondering why so many corporate retreats and "away days" are the absolute opposite of calm and/or productive meetings.

    Maybe your situation of a very limited number of participants, who are working together in a VC partnership without the hierarchies of big corporates just makes it work.

  • Great idea — change environments, eliminate expectations and reflect with your business partners.
    My only added thought — I feel this would be best after the individuals had a little time away from each other, to get some personal perspective/space, after which they could do the retreat together.

  • I think this is the one of better posts i read in months. Very optimistic. Thanks!

  • Great post! Very optimistic. Thanks!

  • Peter

    Your post is food for my soul. Trying to balance a long term view while living in the moment is difficult at the best of times.

    Life is what you make it…and I've just begun to figure out the enjoy the journey part.

    Continue posting these "feld" thoughts; they are provoking and I need that! Thanks.


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  • Your post made me think of this book that I'm reading: It's all about work (including all of its chaos and uncertainties) as a path to inner stillness.

  • Having a quiet time for ourselves in spite of our busy schedules is a mist. We should always find time for ourselves and not only pressure ourselves all the time.

  • Having a quiet time for ourselves in spite of our busy schedule is a MUST. We should always find time for ourselves and not only pressure ourselves all the time.

  • Trent and I did similar things at XOR and think it made huge difference. Good advice. And making a really commitment to it is the key. Too often it's the kind of thing that can easily be justified off the todo list.

    Calming the mind is REALLY important. I truly believe that it's hard to have breakthrough thoughts regarding business or life when the mind is racing. A stream, meditation, music, whatever it takes. The mind is the most important asset of an entrepreneur, and too often we let it race out of control and in turn our effectiveness declines. It's much harder than it sounds because driving in the slow lane often feels especially constraining (think about driving through a school zone when you are in a hurry). But, we know we shouldn't speed through a school zone. We also shouldn't speed through being a leader – it's dangerous to the business, the people around us, and ourselves.

    Thanks for the post on this topic Brad.

  • Great post Brad.

    I would be interested in a related post from you someday like "How to avoid drinking at company retreats so you can feel sharp and get up early to work hard." Every work thing I've ever been too always ends with too much pressure to drink at the end of the day. Maybe I'm just a wimp!

    • Interestingly, alcohol / drinking seems to be an integral part of these things.  Now that I’ve been watching Mad Men, all I can say is “at least it doesn’t start at 9:30 in the morning”.  I always go for a hard run in the morning of the second day so that limits my consumption by definition (or at least gets it out of my system.)

  • I really like the sound of this, I think it would definitely be beneficial to get out of the normal environment to discuss things. Especially if it is somewhere nice and peaceful where you can indulge in a few adult beverages and talk business without all the craziness of your home turf…definitely something I will look into in the future. Thanks!

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